Coordinated by the Alcohol Health Alliance and Chair of Drugs Alcohol & Justice APPG Dan Carden MP, Liverpool Walton, Parliamentarians and experts write to the Prime Minister calling for an independent review of alcohol harm.
High levels of alcohol consumption lead to unacceptable harm across the UK, beneath which hide many personal tragedies. Alcohol is the leading risk factor for death, ill-health, and disability amongst 15-49-year-olds. It causes more working years of life lost than the ten most common cancers combined. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation to crisis point, with deaths from alcohol rising to an all-time high.
It is estimated that alcohol costs our society at least £27 billion every year, of which less than half is offset by tax revenue on alcohol. This includes direct costs such as the £11.4 billion incurred by alcohol-related crime, as well as indirect costs such as contributing to overweight and obesity. The next generation will suffer hugely from rising alcohol harm, including the impact on children of alcohol dependent parents and those with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), already estimated to cost the NHS £2 billion per year.
Alcohol harm is not felt equally across society: people from the lowest socio-economic groups are significantly more likely to feel the adverse impacts of alcohol, despite drinking less alcohol on average.
The last UK Government alcohol strategy was in 2012 and successive governments have since failed to put forward a comprehensive plan to reduce the harms of alcohol.
In 2019, The Government commissioned an independent review of drugs by Dame Carol Black. The unflinching analysis laid bare the scale of the problem and provided 32 recommendations. The majority of Dame Carol’s recommendations were adopted in the Government’s 10 Year Drug Strategy: From Harm to Hope. To tackle soaring levels of alcohol harm across the UK, Parliamentarians and experts are calling for an equivalent independent review of alcohol harm to inform a new alcohol strategy.
In its approach to illicit drugs, obesity, tobacco and gambling-related harm the Government has shown a willingness to take bold action to protect the public’s health – the same boldness is now required to tackle alcohol harm.
Dan Carden MP, who has talked openly in Parliament about his personal experience of alcohol addiction said:
After a decade of Government inaction, alcohol harm has reached crisis point – doing its worst damage in our most deprived communities.
Alcohol harm is a public health crisis that requires immediate Government intervention. With the highest alcohol-specific deaths on record, thousands of families destroyed and the enormous cost to the public purse, people are right to ask why there is no Government plan to tackle alcohol harm.
The financial and social uncertainty of the cost-of-living crisis is expected to increase alcohol consumption at harmful levels. Government must prioritise improving public health and evidence-based policies and move beyond simply reinforcing damaging ignorant rhetoric.
An independent review of alcohol harm is the only way we can understand the scale of the problem and provide targeted recommendations to reduce the devastating harms of alcohol.
Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of Alcohol Health Alliance said:
Alcohol harm is at record high levels, with more deaths caused by alcohol today than at any time in the last 20 years.
The last alcohol strategy is now over a decade old and no longer relevant to the challenges we face. We urgently need an independent review of alcohol harm to help improve our nation’s health, take the pressure off the NHS and reduce the costs of alcohol-fuelled crime.
If you want to take action, you can ask your MP to join the call for an independent review here.